Inferno is a stormtrooper reclamation of the metal/punk/deviance crown that is rightfully theirs/Lemmy’s. And Motorhead succeeds brilliantly. The trio format of Inferno suits Motorhead more than ever, stripping down their sound to primitive fatal essentials. Mikkey Dee’s drumming has finally made me into a convert (I’m a Philty Animal Taylor partisan, sorry), with some stunning double bass work and an intuitive understanding of the sloppy/precise aesthetic that is the core of the Motorhead sound. Philip Campbell, obviously a technically gifted player, as well realizes that less is more. And really, why try to dazzle when you can just punch someone in the stomach? Lemmy is ageless and yet increasingly grizzled and weathered over each album, simultaneously eighteen and 800, staring impassively (seen IT ALL) from behind a black cowboy hat and leveling his bass like a sawed off shotgun (also the closest sonic antecedent to the basslines he lays down). By the 21st century, his ever-more raw rasp/rumble of a voice now mirrors the loudfastrules guitars that first entranced him into a life of rock and roll, to which he delivers staccato sermons on the absolute failure of humanity to evolve and exist in any meaningful fashion. Revelatory! Motorhead now know who they are, what they do best and that all pretenders to their throne must be dispatched with extreme prejudice.
“Terminal Show” just starts at a terrific goddamn gallop and doesn’t let up a bit throughout, as if we happened to walk in halfway through the number. “The Killers” is a hard-bitten, first-person antiwar screed with Lemmy croaking, “We take no prisoners/We spare no brave defender,” over an ominous rumble of blunt force metal. “In The Name Of Tragedy” welds fiercely nonconformist lyrics to a rich vein of thrash godliness. The mammoth stomp of “Suicide” is fascinating; even WWII fanatic Lemmy is finally driven to rage and disgust by the human race’s stampede toward total self-destruction, coming from that weathered bark, lyrics like “Respect for nothing, fire or flood/Expect no quarter, no reprieve/We writhe and grin in our own blood” assume the weight of a Hell’s Angel King Solomon — fabulous stuff. And someone had better rally around these lyrics, like, yesterday. The speedfreak, white-line blues of “Life’s A Bitch” sees Lemmy effortlessly dispensing with some young pup who’s trying to step to him: “Make a grown man sick/The way you run your mouth.” Better leave while you can. “Down On Me” consumes and reshapes the template of hardcore punk in Lemmy’s own craggy wolfen image: the guitars have a discordant buzz to them (with white noise solos), the bass and drums lock in like a million tiny sledgehammers all at once and Lemmy sneers about giving “a sucker an even break.” “In the Black” is a feral malicious Stooges-y strut.
“Fight” begins with Lemmy snapping “Put the bass up, willya,” before stampeding in a vicious one-chord metal chug/mosh complete with a chorus of “Fight! Fight! Fight!” — sounds all Alexander the Great. “In The Year Of The Wolf” (about an ancient hunter looking back at the dark thrills of the hunt) is built around one 10-mile tall stuttering, chugging riff that just oozes all manner of switchblade machismo and backalley-brawl blood. It boogies like fucking hell. And the way Lemmy says “wwwolf” fucking rules. “Keys To The Kingdom” is total blues skronk, with a traditional riff being pounded away (although distorted as hell) and Lemmy spitting “Congratulations/God hates your guts” — and of course that’s where Campbell executes his most soaring guitar solo. There’s even a fucking ace closer called “Whorehouse Blues,” though not my favorite song on the album (that’s “Year of the Wolf”), it makes me happiest to listen to — it’s like a blueprint of the distant future for Motorhead, stripped down world-weary acoustic country/blues that speaks with more defiant gravitas than pretty much anything else going today. It’s awesome, man. Instead of being caricatures like Alice Cooper, Lemmy and the boys are gonna turn down the guitars and sing their guts out, with passion and just that imperceptible hint of danger — like last night’s whisky still on the breath. And it ends with the band asking him, “Can we go now?” “Yeah,” he mutters back.
That this sort of music is still being practiced by this same lot is one of the few things that still give me faith in humanity. Motorhead are the last real men in metal. Wise prophets, war-weary generals, snake-bitten bluesmen, hard-driving lifers. It is more important now than ever to listen.